Saturday, 10 June 2017

Guest Post - Taking A Chance by Grace Lowrie - Chances Fortnight - Blog Tour

When I was nineteen I completed a one-year Art Foundation course with distinction, and then completely failed to get a place at university. This sudden rejection came as an almighty shock since I’d always been rather sensible, studious and academically successful up until that point. Looking back on it I was not an exciting prospective student – I was unhappy and lacking both confidence and drive; something the interviewers presumably picked up on, but which I couldn’t admit at the time. Despite this unexpected knock-back I was determined that I would re-apply for the same art degree course, at the same institution, the following year (I’d done my research and that was where I wanted to be) but what to do in the meantime? I was left wondering ‘What now…?’

Sitting in my bank account were the funds I’d saved up from working Sundays in Debenhams, most of my friends were caught up in their new student lives and I now had several empty months stretching ahead of me. Rather than wallow in misery, I decided to take a chance and do something different; something crazy, impulsive and unlike me – so I bought a one-way ticket to Australia.

It wasn’t quite as dramatic as it sounds – I delayed my departure long enough to obtain a working tourist visa, a guidebook and an arm full of jabs, and I had an ex-boyfriend willing to meet me at Sydney airport and show me the sights – but for me at nineteen, flying off to the other side of the world on my own was uncharacteristically brave and terrifying.

The trip was a disaster at first. While I was keen to see as much of the vast continent as possible, my ex had already been travelling for months, run out of money and needed to stay in Sydney to work. Relations between us, as you might imagine, were not ideal to start with and became increasingly strained as the days passed. Trapped in a foreign city, so far from friends and family, I’d never felt more alone and more than once I considered jumping straight back on a plane home, my tail between my legs.

But one of the best things about Australia is just how well they cater for travellers. Chatting to the multitude of friendly, easy-going people I shared a hostel with, gave me the courage I needed to stay and give my adventure a proper chance. This time the one-way ticket I bought was for an Oz Experience bus to take me all the way up the east coast as far as Cairns. I can’t begin to tell you how perfect this mode of transport was for a lone introvert like me. The drivers doubled as tour hosts; commencing each day with ice-breaker games and turning a bus full of strangers into friends for the day. I was usually the youngest, the ‘baby of the bus’, a title that encouraged my fellow travellers to look out for me – which in turn reassured my poor, worried mum back home. The buses stopped at a different dwelling each night – everything from a sheep station to a beach lodge to a cattle ranch – but with the flexibility that you could stay at each place as many days as you wished, simply catching another bus when you were ready to move on up the coast.

This isn’t a travel blog so I won’t go in to all the amazing adventures I had; all the friends I made and all the incredible things I saw and did. Suffice to say that from Cairns I carried right on to Alice Springs in the centre of the continent, working my way down through several other places before arriving back in Sydney. It was the best six months of my life – even allowing for my allergic reaction to mosquito bites!

But the most important and enduring effects of this impulsive journey were nothing to do with Australia as a country at all. Firstly, the fact I’d even made the trip gave my confidence a huge, much-needed boost, and secondly; time and distance away from my day-to-day life gave me an invaluable sense of perspective. Exploring the coasts, mountains, rainforests and deserts of a country ten thousand miles away, somehow made me painfully aware that my relationship with my dad back in the UK, was falling apart.

As a child of divorced parents, one of the hardest things for me was reconciling my emotions. In a nutshell: I felt hurt, anger and resentment towards the very people I loved most and didn’t know what to do about it. Consequently, over the years, I had unconsciously closed myself off and completely stopped talking to my dad. With the fresh clarity of oceans betweens us, I realised that with my continued silence, I risked destroying our relationship altogether.

It was on a far-flung mountain top that I finally sat down and hand-wrote Dad a letter; explaining how I felt and how I wanted things to be good between us again. Forgiveness, like most things worth achieving, is not easy, but I think if you can open up the lines of communication you are already half way there. That letter, the power of the written word being what it is, prompted my dad to call me and we had a great, long, tearful conversation that I believe was healing on both sides.

A few months later, back in the UK, when I woke to find myself delirious with flu on the very day of my ‘second chance’ university interview, it was my dad – my biggest fan – who insisted I go. Without him driving me there, plying me with paracetamol and marching me up and down Brighton seafront to make sure I was awake, I would never have made it. I have no recollection of what I said in that interview, but whatever it was it must have made an impression. A week later I was granted a place on the BA Hons Fine Art Sculpture course, and spent the next three years enjoying every moment! Turns out some of life’s knock-backs can be made into opportunities, if you are prepared to take a chance.

Wow what a magnificent chance you took. Thank you so much Grace for sharing that with us. 

Safe With Me (due to be published 22nd June 2017) blurb:

An emotional and evocative story about the deepest bonds of friendship.

Abandoned as children, Kat and Jamie were inseparable growing up in foster care. But their bond couldn’t protect them forever.

From a troubled upbringing to working in a London greasy spoon, Kat’s life has never been easy. On the surface Jamie’s living the high-life, but appearances can be deceiving.

When they unexpectedly reunite, the bond they share becomes too intense to ignore. But as secrets come back to haunt them, are they destined to be separated once more?

Perfect for fans of Hilary Boyd and Nicholas Sparks.

Buy links:

Author Biography and links:

Having worked as a collage artist, sculptor, prop maker and garden designer, Grace has always been creative, but she is a romantic introvert at heart and writing was, and is, her first love.

Safe With Me, the first women’s fiction novel in The Wildham Series, is published by Accent Press, who also released her debut contemporary romance novel, Kindred Hearts, in 2015. A lover of rock music, art nouveau design, blue cheese and grumpy ginger tomcats, Grace is also an avid reader of fiction – generally preferring coffee and a sinister undercurrent, over tea and chick lit. When not making prop costumes or hanging out with her nephews, she continues to write stories from her Hertfordshire home.

Follow along with the rest of the blog tour. 

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